Positives and negatives in outlook for Hoffman Estates, mayor says
The good news of economic growth and fresh successes at the Sears Centre arena was counterbalanced by bad news of proposed cuts in state funding threatening police and fire staffing during Hoffman Estates Mayor Bill McLeod's annual state of the village address Wednesday.
McLeod spoke to members of the Hoffman Estates Chamber of Commerce and Industry at the breakfast event held at the Sears Centre.
The extent to which the village has prospered since the recession provided plenty of material for the business-oriented audience.
"It's been a very good year," McLeod said. "The economy seems to have taken a turn for the better."
Among the signs are the start of construction on the $68 million tollway interchange improvement at Barrington Road -- of which the village is responsible for only $5 million -- and the 2,740 building permits the village issued in 2014.
A new Moretti's and Whiskey River will be injecting new life into the restaurant campus at Barrington and Higgins roads.
And the Sears Centre had the second best year in its history, as well as providing the greatest amount of tax revenue since the village took over its ownership.
General Manager Ben Gibbs said the Sears Centre hosted 86 events and sold $5.6 million worth of tickets in 2014. Many of the new events were Indian or Hispanic cultural events, demonstrating that the arena is benefiting from demographic changes in the area, he added.
"We're always very aggressive about finding new business," Gibbs said.
One example of his team's creativity, he said, is to go head-to-head with Champaign and Peoria to compete to host Illinois High School Association athletic finals in 2016. The Sears Centre will make a pitch to the organization next week.
Also next week, the arena reaps the benefit from a prior negotiation by hosting the Big Ten Conference Women's Basketball Tournament.
Among other changes coming to Hoffman Estates in 2015 are a new lot for Muller's Woodfield Acura on the former site of Dover Straits restaurant on Golf Road; the second year of a five-year, 73-mile street reconstruction program; and updates to the comprehensive land-use plan last revised in 2007, before the economic downturn.
An audience member asked McLeod to spell out how Hoffman Estates would be affected by Gov. Bruce Rauner's proposal to reduce the village's share of income tax and other state funding.
McLeod said the proposal for a 50 percent reduction in its share of the state income tax would cost the village $2.6 million.
In conjunction with other proposed cuts in Rauner's plan, Hoffman Estates could lose nearly 10 percent of its operating budget, he added.
"There would be some diminution of village services -- there's no other way to say it -- probably in personnel," McLeod said.
And he felt that police and fire staffing would probably take the brunt of any cuts, as other departments were cut as low as they believed they could be during the recession.
He said the village would never lose sight of the need to live within its means.
"You have to deal with changes in circumstance," he said. "We deal with it. You do what you can with the resources you have."
McLeod also said that the fate of the AT&T campus -- sold to Inland American Real Estate Trust Inc. a few years ago, but still leased by AT&T -- remains unknown.
"Obviously, it's a great concern to us," McLeod said. "It's a beautiful campus and a lot of space."
But he expressed confidence that some use could be found for the campus as it is after AT&T's planned departure, rather than having to demolish it.